Oregon Ducks (3-5 SU, 1-6-1 ATS) vs. USC Trojans (5-3 SU, 4-4 ATS)
College Football Week 10
Date/Time: Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 7PM EST
Where: Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ORE +17/USC -17
Over/Under Total: 78.5
In Pac-12 action from the City of Angels, the Oregon Ducks face the USC Trojans on Saturday. USC has been on a surge of late with four straight wins, including a 45-24 win over Cal last Thursday. After a 1-3 start, they have seen QB Sam Darnold take this offense to new heights and are now 4-2 in conference and are suddenly a team with some hope moving forward. Oregon, meanwhile, broke a miserable 5-game losing streak with a 54-35 win over Arizona State on Saturday. Now at 3-5, they look to try to make something of a season that finds the Ducks in as bad a state as theyve been in years.
Oregon really needed the win over ASU last week. In their five game losing streak, they had seen almost everything go wrong, namely a defense that couldnt stop a nosebleed. In the three games leading up to the win over ASU, they had allowed a combined 173 points. So giving up 35 to the Sun Devils was actually a step forward. They are ranked 127th in defense in the country. New coordinator Brady Hoke hasnt been able to stop the slide of a group that has played at a slapstick level for a large chunk of the season. The former conference power is now struggling to post wins in the Pac-12. Its a disheartening situation to say the least.
We think back to last season when a on-their-back Oregon team sprung to life. Their defense tightened up with their offense starting to look like their old self. Maybe the ASU win was a sign of another spurt. At 2-5, maybe the alarms really started sounding in their heads. Last year serves as a reminder that you can never fully bury this team with a clear head. They have enough talent on that sideline to at least turn things around a little.
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Oregon has turned to freshman Justin Herbert to commandeer the offense. In his last two games, he has ten TD passes and only one pick. The Oregon offense has scored 103 points in the last two games and looks to be on the rise. They ran the ball well, with Tony Brooks-James getting off for a big game. Both he and Royce Freeman have run for 8 TDs. They actually have pretty good balance on offense between the run and the pass. Darren Carrington, Charles Nelson, and Pharaoh Brown contribute in the aerial attack. And for the last few weeks, weve seen the Ducks start to put these weapons to use.
After all, USC was able to turn it around and they were really looking bad through the first month of the season. Both sides of the ball have come around some in the past 4 games with consecutive wins over Arizona State, ranked Colorado, Arizona, and Cal. Theyve looked even better at home where they are this week. They look to make it 5 games in a row this week with some big tests still ahead where they can salvage a good season after such a sloppy start.
Not to knock previous starting QB Max Browne, but the Trojans look a lot better with Sam Darnold behind center. He has 18 touchdowns against just three picks. He also has 10 touchdowns against one pick in his last two games. He is accurate with the ball and has brought out the best of a vast arsenal of talent. Ronald Jones, Justin Davis (questionable), and AcaCedric Ware provide a three-pronged rushing attack that really makes an impact. Darnold also adds a dimension with his legs, having made some useful runs and scoring a few touchdowns.
Darnold has allowed the Southern Cal passing game to take flight. After a slow start with Browne in there, JuJu Smith-Schuster has started getting back to the business of being the best receiver in the conference. Twice in the last four games, he has scored three touchdowns in a game. Receiver Darreus Rogers has made some big contributions in the passing game, as has Deontay Burnett. The Trojans have scored 93 points combined in their last two games.
At their best, the SC defense is pretty balanced, though far from infallible. In their four game win streak, they have given up a combined 75 points, a pretty solid total against the high-flying offenses they face in this conference. They have held teams that put up a lot of points, like Cal, to very manageable amounts of production. Theyve been getting after the quarterback a little better, are getting some turnovers, and are making less mistakes in recent weeks.
The Southern Cal defense might be the key for the purposes of betting on this game. Oregons offense has perhaps found a lifeline with a new QB in there, just as USC did about a month ago when they threw Darnold in the starting role. The Trojans D has been holding opposing offenses to very little, but Oregon might be able to throw up some points. It could make covering the big number a bit problematic for the Trojans. I think USC will win, but I think theyll struggle in getting that much separation from the Ducks, who may have subtly seen their offense step up in the last two weeks. Im taking the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Oregon Ducks plus 17 points.
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